12 Dec 2018

Is Joe Schmidt the coach of the year?

9:16 am on 12 December 2018

It was with much interest that I saw Joe Schmidt's nomination for the 2018 Halberg Awards.

The Woodville born 53 year old only had a brief coaching stint in New Zealand with Bay of Plenty and the Blues before heading overseas to make his name.

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt and All Blacks coach Steve Hansen.

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt and All Blacks coach Steve Hansen. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

He's been in charge of the Irish side since 2013 and this year he guided them to the Six Nations title, a series win in Australia and a first ever home victory over the All Blacks.

His inclusion in the list of nominations for the coach of the year immediately brought back memories of the debate that did the rounds in 2003 when Russell Coutts was made a finalist for the Sportsman of the Year award after leading Swiss syndicate Alinghi to America's Cup victory over Team New Zealand.

Coutts and his team completely dominated that Cup regatta in Auckland, beating Dean Barker's Team New Zealand 5-0 and celebrating just like he had with the successful New Zealand outfit in 1995 and 2000.

It was that delight and subsequent acknowledgement with the Halberg nomination that raised a few hackles.

Why should someone who is representing another country and has beaten New Zealand be rewarded?

It was a dated view.

Russell Coutts celebrates 2003 America's Cup win with Alinghi.


The eligibility rules for the Halberg Awards state that they are for sporting achievements in New Zealand or overseas, athletes and coaches must be a New Zealand citizen or hold a New Zealand Resident Visa.

With globalisation there are so many New Zealanders competing on the world stage for teams or outfits not just to make a living but to also further their careers.

Rugby is a classic example, such is the depth in the game in New Zealand that players believing they might only have a limited role with the All Blacks head off to Europe or Japan and with just a three year residency rule, a number end up playing for their new home, sometimes against the All Blacks.

The same happens with coaches with it appearing to be a prerequisite for New Zealand Rugby that a mentor should have coached overseas before they're considered eligible to work with the All Blacks.

As it turned out Coutts didn't win the award in 2003, the men's award went to kayaker Ben Fouhy, while the Silver Ferns won the Supreme Award.

Since then a number of people plying their trade overseas have been nominated for Halberg Awards and the likes of Scott Dixon and Lydia Ko have won.

I don't expect Schmidt to win the Sports Coach of the Year award for 2018, but it would have been interesting if 2018 had been a Rugby World Cup year and Ireland had beaten the All Blacks in the final, what reaction would he have got from the locals.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck wins Dally M medal.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck wins Dally M medal. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

On the flip side it was unfortunate that the Warriors captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck wasn't nominated.

After guiding the club into the NRL play-offs for the first time in seven years, Tuivasa-Sheck was awarded the Dally M Medalist of the Year, the first Warriors player to receive the honour of NRL player of the year.

The criteria states that the award will be awarded to the athlete or team whose achievement represented excellence in sport at the highest level.

Tuivasa-Sheck didn't play for the Kiwis this year, but his performances at NRL level earned him the highest accolade in the games top competition, surely that warrants something?

If indoor cricket, orienteering, powerlifting, underwater hockey and croquet can get someone nominated, couldn't rugby league could do the same.